Most cameras, and I, can not focus simultaneously near and far. I have to choose a certain depth of field, and my attention goes there. The last couple of weeks I feel like I've been zooming the lens in and out and in again.
Most of the day and every four or five nights the focus is tight, and specific. Tiny little lives that struggle. Lungs that aren't filling with air, blood that teams with harmful bacteria, intestines that aren't digesting milk, skin that is broken down or infected. My patients weigh anywhere from 900 grams to a few kilos. They are jaundiced or febrile or anemic or dehydrated, and they can't ask for help. So it is my job each day to plunge into a sea of chaotic activity and sort out the serious problems from the distractions, to insist on attention to detail, to calculate and palpate and think and work. To organize my team, to listen to their presentations, to check their plans. To respond to emergencies, and teach. We've been extremely crowded, wedging 28 babies into space meant for just over half that number. We have an outbreak of a bad bacterial septic infection spreading. It's been intense. But I like the tight focus, the immediate crisis, the hands-on problem. These babies are precious, and their moms are heroic. Here is my view:
But the last two weeks have also required a zoomed-out focus, the panorama, the big picture. Our team in South Sudan left under pressure of illness and rumor of war. Our team in Bundibugyo has faced public pressure on the school administration, an unexpected resignation, loss which changes personal plans. We are in discussion with multiple colleagues who are discouraged and in need of hope. We are deeply involved in plans for our regional leadership training and then retreat, a 10-day stretch of ministry for six teams in four countries that begins Saturday. Preparing schedules, thinking through content, meditating on talks, praying for each person coming. This is big-picture stuff, the why and how of the Kingdom come, the survival of vision and purpose. I invited a hundred people to a Serge party and desperately want God to meet them there. This is one view, with parts of two teams over for dinner and prayer:
Both are the real work of the reversal of all that is wrong with the world. Both are opportunities to pour our souls out on behalf of fragile people. Both call for the Spirit's power. For wisdom. For perseverance. For patience and kindness and hope.
But it isn't easy to keep focusing in and out, to hold the full depth of our East Africa field in view all at once. Yet Jesus does this, knowing each sparrow of a preemie whose little heart tires out, and knowing the major political forces at work between warring clans or the life-trajectories of dozens of intersecting people and families.
Tomorrow is my last day in the NICU for a couple of weeks; Thursday I fly down to the coast to meet Heidi who has been a rock of can-do organization these past months as we have planned these retreats together. We have Friday to finish up all the details for both retreats. Scott flies back to Kenya and meets Jack late Friday night, and they arrive at the coast with all the others on Saturday. He has finished quarantine, and our two-month separation is down to just under 4 more days.
Pray that all these babies would be healed and strengthened and thriving as I go and leave them in the hands of a visiting Canadian paeds NICU fellow. And pray that the last preparations for the retreat would fall into place so that many weary and hurting missionaries would meet Jesus. And lastly pray that Scott and I would be unified in the counsel and leadership we need to bless our field, at all depths.